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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 31, 2014 2:00pm-3:01pm EDT

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thursday. if it passes in the senate, it'll go on to the president. and senators will vote on that bill and on a judicial nomination this afternoon at 5:30 eastern time as well as whether or not to move forward with an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, you have withheld nothing we need. today, continue to meet the needs of our lawmakers. give them so much more than they expect or merit, that they will sing praises for your goodness.
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in these days challenges and opportunities, empower them with faith, courage and goodwill to make the world a better place. lord, use them as your servants to bring healing to our nation and world. today, we also pray for the ill, the bereaved, the infirm, the discouraged, the lonely, and the homeless. we pray in your merciful name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible,
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with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., march 31, 2014. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable christopher s. murphy, a senator from the state of connecticut, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks and those of the republican leader, we will proceed to h.r. 4302, protecting access to medicare act, with the time until 5:00 p.m. equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. at 5:00 p.m. the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the nomination of john owens to be united states
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circuit judge for the ninth circuit postcloture. at 5:30 then there could be up to four roll call votes. first on kreurgs of owens -- confirmation on owens. then if a budget point of order is raised on the s.g.r. bill, then passage of the s.g.r. bill, finally h.r. 3979, the legislative vehicle for the unemployment insurance bill. mr. president, i wish a happy opening baseball day to everyone. actually it started last night, not today. but it sounds better to do it right in the daytime. this is opening day for major league baseball but happens to be the last day for americans to sign up for obamacare, the affordable care act. to date over ten million newly insured americans benefiting from the law are now in effect, now have the benefit of that. and there's millions of more who
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have changed their insurance because of this legislation. so it's clear that americans are signing up for this quality health care in record numbers, and that's an understatement. mr. president, i'm also very happy that we've been able to come to an agreement on the medicare physicians payment system. it's a 12-month fix. we need to take action on this to ensure that medicare patients will be able to see their doctors. the fact remains that this legislation is not perfect. it's not ideal. i wish we could have followed the chairman of the finance committee, senator wyden, who came in kind of late because most of this work was done by ambassador baucus before he came in, but he's worked really hard and toepts pay for it -- and he wants to pay for it in a way i think it is appropriate, to use the overseas contingency fun
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from the wars in iraq and afghanistan. but at this stage it doesn't appear that is going to happen now. this legislation wasn't some last-minute deal. senator baucus was working on this for months. that's the basis for what we did here today -- we're going to do here today. there were tough negotiations. unfortunately the parties could not come to agreement on what a permanent fix should be. i told you that i believe the permanent fix should be what chairman wyden suggests and continues to suggest. house republicans, though, chose to pass a partisan bill that would increase a number of uninsured americans and raise the cost of premiums. we should, rye -- repeal the defective system. we need to restore sanity to the medicare payment system without cutting benefits to seniors and shifting financial burdens to hospital and other providers. we've done enough of that
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already. right now we don't have the votes to do what would be the better thing to do, so for millions of elderly americans and their doctors, this fix is good news. it means the promise of accessible quality health care to our nation's seniors is being honored again, this time for another year. so while i'm pleased with this temporary patch, i hope it's our last patch. in the meantime, i extend my appreciation to senator wyden, the chairman of the finance committee for his work to bring stability to the medicare payment system. for the moment -- from the moment he assumed the gavel to become chairman of that committee, he hit the ground running on this issue as well as reforming the entire tax code. he's also working, as we speak, on doing some good work on the so-called tax extenders. it's my opinion understanding that he's meeting with his committee members today. mr. president, after confirming
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this long-awaited judge for the ninth circuit and appreaching a patch for the medicare payment program the senate will turn to benefits for the long-term unemployed. this is a matter of really significant importance to millions of americans. they've waited three months since republicans first filibustered a bill to restore emergency benefits. more importantly, unemployed americans have waited even longer than that. since that filibuster, nearly a million more americans have lost their benefits. that's 300,000 people a month who have been thrusted into poverty not knowing how they'll pay their bills. i received a letter recently from a nevadan named jane who pleaded for congress to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed. she's what we would call an older american, an older nevadan. she didn't make the plea for herself. it was for her son. she said -- and i quote -- "please do all in your power to get this matter resolved.
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my son has been looking since may of last year. he held his last job for 26 years and doesn't have a lot of experience in other fields. i cannot continue to help him. i lost my husband last july and lost his social security. i have mine now, and that's all. please do what you can to help those who are in such need." so, mr. president, imagine an elderly woman, a widow desperate to assist her middle-aged son and now she's using her meager social security check to help him get by and now her own financial situation is in jeopardy. jane and her son have already seen what happens when much-needed unemployment benefits don't get extended. for nevadans struggling to pay the rent, keep the lights on or feed the kids, they've waited long enough. but we know why republicans always refer to wait. they prefer to wait because for many of my colleagues across the aisle, waiting means doing
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nothing. so, mr. president, the fact is that a majority of republicans here in congress are simply opposed to helping the long-term unemployed. most of them won't say so but that's the truth. one g.o.p. congressman from california said an extension of unemployment benefits -- quote -- "will encourage unemployment." close quote. that's a tough one to follow. this elected congressman believes that the half million people in the state of california who had their unemployment benefits terminated actually prefer to be jobless. i don't think so. hearing the senate last thursday, only ten republicans voted to help democrats break the three-month filibuster. g.o.p. senators from the state with the third highest population eligible for long-term unemployment, texas, both voted to block unemployment benefits as if they don't care
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that some of their constituents are teetering on eupbd generals. not withstanding this, i'm confident we'll pass this legislation here in the senate this week here and hopefully the republicans in the house will have soft hearts and strong minds and allow this to pass over there. it's in their hands. we hope that they'll be considerate to the roughly 2.8 million long-term unemployed across the country. perhaps then struggling americans will get the relief they deserve. would the chair announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to the consideration of h.r. 4302, which the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 4302, an act to amend the social security act to extend medicare payments to physicians, and other provisions of the medicare and medicaid programs, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 5:00 p.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees.
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mr. reid: i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent that we terminate the call of the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. roeupl i would now ask for a -- mr. reid: i would now ask for a quorum and ask the time be divided equally on both sides. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, america's top priority is the same today as it was last year, the year before that, and the year before that. unemployment, jobs, and how do we get this economy growing again. and of course these are concerns that transcend any kind of partisan affiliation. they transcend geographic and demographic boundaries. they're shared of course by republicans, democrats, independents, everyone, people from all parts of our country. but the sad fact is it's been almost five years since america's official economic recovery began, and yet still too many people who want to work can't find a job.
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there's still 3.8 million people unemployed who have been unemployed for more than six months, and the labor force participation rate remains stuck at 63%. of course those are the people that don't even show up on the unemployment statistics because they've given up looking for work. that's what we talk about when we're talking about the labor participation rate. the lowest number since 30 years ago. since the current president took office, the average amount of time that the unemployed have been without a job has almost doubled, from less than 20 weeks to more than 37 weeks. that's a shocking statistic. so since president obama has been in office, the average time people who have been unemployed have been out of work went from less than 20 weeks to now 37 weeks.
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and the number of people on food stamps has increased from 32.2 million to nearly 46.8 million people. as for median household income, well, it's now more than $2,400 lower than it was at the end of the recession in june of 2009. the president talks a lot about income inequality, but the problem is it's gotten worse since he's been in office, not better. mr. president, we should be focused like a laser on things we might be able to do to set the stage to help the economy start growing again, because only when the economy grows do we see the unemployment numbers go down, do we see the labor participation rate go up, and we see regular american families have the opportunity to provide
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for themselves and to pursue their dreams. but right now that american dream is somewhat cloudy. many people feel like it's starting to pass them by. and that's an american tragedy. so you would think that at a time when there is a bipartisan consensus that we need to get the economy moving again, we need to get people back to work so they can provide for their families, that there would be bipartisan agreement here in the senate that anybody with a good idea ought to accept up, offer it, debate it and let's vote on it. well, unfortunately the majority leader has a different point of view. he's refusing to let anyone on this side of the aisle offer any suggestions in the form of amendments that actually might have a chance of improving the situation for people who are out of work or people looking for jobs.
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well, not only is the majority leader blocking votes on bills that would make it easier for americans to find work, he's also promoting and defending policies that would actually discourage work. for example, both the majority leader and president obama are advocating a minimum wage increase of 40%, while the congressional budget office has told us it could destroy up to a million jobs. now, the majority leader and the president may not agree with that estimate but i'll remind them of what federal reserve chairwoman janet yellen said -- and she's president obama's own appointee as the chairman of the federal reserve board -- she said that she wouldn't want to argue with the congressional budget office's assessment about the number of people that would be put out of work if you raise the minimum wage by 40%.
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for that matter, the evidence suggests that any increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs and do very little, if anything, to reduce poverty rates. the best thing we could do is to get out of the way and to let the economy grow again by making the environment more conducive to the people who invest, take risks and start businesses or grow small businesses. that's the thing we could do that would help these people the most. but in addition to the minimum wage increase, the majority leader and president obama are yet pushing for another extension of long-term unemployment benefits. even though president obama's own former chief white house economist has said that -- quote -- "job search is inversely related to the generosity of unemployment benefits." so in other words, people react
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to incentives. and when the government continues to pay unemployment benefits for people who are out of work, human nature is such that people are disincentivized to go back to work and look for work, on occasion. now, we all recognize the importance of this safety net program. and the truth is that under the current law, 26 weeks, or six months, are available for unemployment benefits. but under this administration, we've seen unemployment benefits go from six months to two years. two years after people have been out of work and those benefits lapsed. we've done nothing to improve job-training programs that would help match the skills of this out-of-work americans to the jobs that are out there which pay good money. and i've seen many of them in my state, and i'm sure the presiding officer has as well. we've seen a lot of good jobs go wanting for a lack of a skilled work force to be able to perform
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those jobs, and so what we ought to be doing, instead of extending unemployment benefits, we ought to be focusing on how we can train workers and provide them with the skills they need in order to qualify for those good, high-paying jobs. well, at a time when the american people are desperate for more jobs and more work, the majority leader is steadfastly determined to pass legislation which would disincentivize people from going back and looking for work and would, in fact, discourage work and discourage job creation. and that's before we even get to obamacare, a law that the congressional budget office has estimated would effectively reduce the size of america's labor force by 2 1/2 million people over the next decade. remarkably, i guess trying to
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spin it any way they could, the white house actually took the position that that was a pretty -- that was actually a good thing because people would have more time off. well, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. after all, this is the same administration that unilaterally gutted the work requirements in the 199welfare reform law -- 1996 w welfare reform law, one f the most successful welfare reform law ever passed. it's refused to extend the keystone x.l. pipeline, a project that would directly create thousands of new jobs right here in the united states of america. and it's the same administration that refuses to embrace pro-growth tax reform. you know, america's corporate tax rate is the highest in the world and yet the president said he won't enter into negotiations to reduce those rates, to eliminate double taxation so people will bring the money they
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earn overseas back here to hire more americans and to build -- build their businesses here. he won't do that without an agreement on this side of the aisle to raise taxes dave raisee revenue by a trillion dollars. that's not a bargain we're interested in negotiating. and this is the same administration that refuses to support energy -- the energy renaissance that we've seen and that continues to support regulations which actually threaten jobs and hurt families in return for meager or nonexistent benefits. as i've said it before, this administration and its policies have become nothing less than a war on the american worker. i'm not suggesting that's their intention but i am suggesting that that's the result. if there's one thing we ought to all be able to agree upon, it is that work is about basic human dignity.
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it's about self-worth and self-reliance. it's about giving people opportunity to reach their full potential and to support their families. when the policies of the federal government actually discourage people from working, it makes it harder for teenagers to learn basic social skills and professional skills. it makes it harder for college graduates to utilize their education and pay off their student loan debt. and it makes it harder for people from all backgrounds to start families. and it makes it harder for mothers and fathers to gain the self-respect that comes from providing for your own children. it's bad enough that the president and the majority leader have embraced an agenda that is fundamentally antiwork. what makes it even more outrageous is that this work the majority leader will deny the opportunity for anyone on this
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side of the aisle to offer any sort of constructive suggestions about how to deal with that problem. he's refusing to allow proposals that would actually encourage work and encourage job creation. and they're are just a few examples of the amendments and the proposals that would come from this side of the aisle if the majority leader, which is his sole progressive, if he would allow -- sole prerogative, if he would allow those amendments to be debated and voted on by the united states senate. for example, the senior senator from maine has a bill that would relieve the burden of obamacare on workers and businesses alike and restore the traditional 40-hour work week. now, this has been one of the primary complaints of organized labor, some of the biggest supporters of obamacare. they've said that in order to avoid the penalties that go along with obamacare, many employers are moving people from full-time work to part-time wo work. well, the amendment from the senior senator from maine,
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senator collins, would address that problem and fix it. the senior senator from utah, senator hatch, has a bill that would abolish the job-killing tax on medical innovation. the junior senator from missouri has a bill that would exempt military veterans from obamacare's employer mandate. the junior senator from kentucky has a bill that would make it easier for congress to block regulations that don't pass a simple cost-benefit test. the junior senator from south carolina has a bill that would modernize work force training and eliminate duplicative government programs, something i was just talking about a moment ago. and the senior senator frommed north dakota has a bill that would single-handedly create thousands of jobs by approving the keystone x.l. pipeline. if and when these bills are offered as amendments to the pending legislation, they deserve a vote.
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if the majority leader denies them a vote, he's effectively denying us a chance to expand our economy, create more jobs and get people back to work. i used to think that this was something that republicans and democrats both agreed was a good thing. i thought we all agreed that job creation and work promotion should be the cornerstones of our economic agenda. with an agenda like that, perhaps we could finally have a recovery of our economy worthy of its name. so, mr. president, i hope the majority leader reconsiders his decision to deny an opportunity for a full debate and vote on these constructive suggestions. none of these are nongermane. all of these are directly on point and would actually help imrowimprove the underlying legislation and actually do something about the underlying symptom that necessitates in
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some people's minds this long-term extension of unemployment benefits. we're not helping people out by continuing to pay unemployment benefits for two years and then leaving them hanging without the skills they need in order to reestablish themselves in the work force. so unfortunately the only conclusion i could draw is if the majority leader's not interested in having a honest and open debate about how do we solve the problem, then something else must be driving his agenda. and i think we should get back to the day when collectively we were more concerned about solving problems than trying to beat on an issue and gain political advantage. but that seems to be the road we're headed down based on the majority leader's decision not to allow any votes on amendmen amendments. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: mr. president, i rise today to mourn the passage of a friend and to pay tribute to a remarkable man. jeremiah denton once served his country as a pilot, a prisoner of war, a rear admiral in the united states navy, and a united states senator. he passed away friday morning at the age of 89, having been active up until near the end.
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from time to time men and women are born into this world who are made of something special. individuals who seem to have an unlimited reservoir of strength and courage, who are made of sterner stuff, people who carry themselves with grace and dignity even as the world's great res. upon their shoulders. jeremiah denton was such a man. a proud son of mobile, alabama, he attended spring hill in the local catholic schools in mobile and he graduated later from the united states naval academy, becoming a pilot and commander. what happened next would etch his name into the annals of american history. on july 18, 1965, denton led a squadron of 28 jets on a bombing raid when he was shot down over north vietnam.
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it was his 12th flight. captured by the north vietnamese he would be a captive in prison camps the next seven years and seven months. during his time as a prisoner, he endured virtually constant and excruciating torture. he has held -- has held -- was held captive at prisons that p.o.w.'s called hanoi hilton, the zoo, and alcatraz. he endured merciless beatings as well as solitary confinement for four years. as a senior officer, he was a leader among the prisoners and rebelled against their brutal efforts to extract propaganda. he refused, explained in an interview to "the new york times" -- quote -- "i put out the policy that they were not to succumb to threats but must stand up and say no. we forced them to be brutal to us" -- close quote. he wrote a memoir "when hell was
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in session" which is a fabulous book. too little appreciated, really. recounting his time as a p.o.w. he describes a torture session in which his captors placed him in a nine foot cement-filled -- placed a nine-foot cement-filled bar across his shins. he wrote that his captors stood on him and took turns jumping up and down and rolling it across my legs. then they lifted my arms behind my back, by the cuffs, raising the top part of my body off the floor and dragging me around and around. this went on for hours. they were in a frenzy, alternating the treatment to increase the pain until i was unable to control myself. i began crying hysterically, blood and tears pling and running down -- mingling and
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running down my cheeks. in may, 1966, denton would defy and outsmart his communist captors and display to the whole world the depth of american courage and ingenuity. his captors interrogated denttop for a proper -- denton for a propaganda interview. while answering their questions filmed by a japanese film company, denton was simultaneously and repeatedly blinking out a message, letter by letter, in morse code. the message was "torture are." it was the first official message informing americans and the world that american p.o.w.'s were being tortured by the north vietnamese. during the interview denton displayed his unshakeable resolve by boldly declaring when they asked him this, whatever the position of my government
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is, i will support it fully. i am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and i will as long as i live. close quote. north vietnam's most ruthless intergators couldn't break the will of this rock-ribbed american alabama native. more than seven long years later, on february 12, 1973, denton would be freed as part of operation homecoming, following the signing of the paris peace accords. he was the senior officer of the first planeload of released poe p.o.w.'s at clark air force base in the philippines. he brought tears to the eyes of the entire nation on that moment, as he walked from the plane, it was reported that he wasn't expected -- wasn't told to make any official remarks or
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make a speech, but he got off the plane and these were his powerful words. "we are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. we are profoundly grateful to our commander in chief and to our nation for this day. god bless america." millions of americans remember that day. denton earned the navy cross, the distinguished service medal, the distinguished service medal, the defense service medal, three silver stars, the distinguished flying cross, five bronze stars, two air medals, two purple hearts and numerous other campaign awards. he rose to the rank of rear admiral and retired from the navy in 1977 and in 1980 the
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grateful state of alabama would send their native son to the united states senate. a man of deep faith, he believed in the dignity of public service and the selflessness required of those who served. he believed that. he demonstrated that in his life. he fought alongside ronald reagan to rebuild america's defenses and to fight the spread of communism and to help bring about the end of the cold war. he was a firm believer in peace through strength. president reagan recognized senator denton during his 1982 state of the union address. many remember this. president reagan said -- quote -- "we don't have to turn to our history books for heroes. they're all around us. one who sits here among you tonight epitomized that heroism at the end of the longest
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imprisonment ever inflicted on men of our armed forces. who will ever forget that night when we waited for the television to bring us the scene of that first plane landing at clark field in the philippines, bringing our p.o.w.'s home. the plane door opened and jeremiah denton came slowly down the ramp. he caught sight of our flag, saluted and said god bless america. then he thanked us for bringing him home." so said ronald reagan. so i had the privilege of getting to know jeremiah denton. he was a very, very special man. his word was his bond and his loyalty was unshakeable and i was modest and while he was a fierce advocate for his profound beliefs, it was never about him. in fact, he was very uncomfortable with the term "hero" being applied to him.
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his comeback always was "we were only doing our duty." they said after his time in communist prison that he was out of touch, he didn't know the 1960's had occurred. perhaps so. in fact, it was so. in plain fact, much had occurred while he was imprisoned and tortured. it was, among other things, a culturally momentous time. many of those changes he did not like. he said so in plain language. he didn't like the surge of crime and drugs. he believed in loyalty to one's spouse. he opposed abortion. he limited the consistent weakening of family bonds, the sexual promiscuity, the decline in decency. he cared enough to speak out and give of himself for his faith and his country. he represented the best america has to offer.
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his grit and bravery shine through from his dark prison cell deep in vietnam and it lit up the world. he loved his country. he loved his god, he loved his family. in 1996 when i was considering running for the u.s. senate i sought his counsel. he graciously agreed to come by my house in mobile and he was a very valuable discussion, near the end we talked of his service. and he told me a story i think it's appropriate maybe to tell it now, of his time in prison, that he had not put in his fine book. after president nixon's bombing and strong military action had brought the north vietnamese to the conference table, denton was firmly of the belief that the vietnamese were defeated and they knew they were defeated.
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concerned over possible war crime trials, one of the prison officials demanded that denton tell them all what he would say to the world about his treatment if he were to be released. senator denton had sought to avoid the question. we say why do you ask of me? i'm not the senior officer in the camp. but they pressed him again and again, and he kept saying why me? i'm not the senior official. and finally the prison official looked at him and said because you're incredible, denton. that's the flat truth. he was incredible. when he told the world and his captured during that show press conference before the japanese television where he blinked "torture" that -- quote --"whatever the position of my government is i fully support it, i'm a member of that government, it is my job to
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support it, and i will as long as i live" it was a moment of great courage, historical significance, and fidelity to duty that few in this nation would be able to match. he knew the captors would not like it, and they did not like it. they beat him brutally for the disrespect that he showed, telling that truth, and they even did so before they knew he had blinked out "torture." well, his family was his life. he was married to the late katherine jane maury for 61 years with whom they had seven children. he is survived by his second wife, mary belle and his children, jeremiah, donald, james, michael, madeleine, and mary lewis. the entire united states sends our prayers to his loved ones and we send our promise,
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jeremiah denton will not be forgotten. mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, every senator in this body represents small town america. there are small towns across this country from connecticut, texas, to small towns in my state of montana. in fact, i grew up and still live outside one of those small towns, a town by the name of big sandy, montana, home to about 600 people. has no stop lights, the high school has about 60 students in it. and what makes america great is that we believe and we cherish the idea that whether you grow up in a town like big sandy or a town as big as new york city, you get a fair shot in life. a fair shot that includes the basic freedoms we enjoy as americans. it includes the right to a good
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education, includes the right to high quality, affordable health care, no matter where we live. and as a resident of big sandy and as a senator from montana, it is my job to not only represent the entirety of america but to point out when our nation is not living up to its ideals when it comes to rural america. right now, mr. president, washington is tying the hands of rural hospitals and small town physicians and threatening the health care of americans in all of rural america. mr. president, the bill we're voting on tonight is a good and important bill, it prevents a 24% reimbursement cut to physicians under medicare and tricare. many folks don't realize it but this will affects retired military and national guardsmen who bought into tricare. this bill is critically important to them as well. above all, make sure that
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doctors can keep treating patients and folks can still keep getting emergency services. it may be a temporary solution, and one we've reached for far too many times, but it's a necessary solution to keep our health care system working. and i appreciate leader reid for bringing it to the floor. but this bill could be stronger, especially for folks in rural america. i have pushed to include two provisions in the bill to strengthen rural health care, but despite my best efforts, they are not going to be part of the measure we vote on tonight. the first provision which i introduced with senator roberts removes a requirement that physicians at critical access hospitals certify that a patient will be discharged or transferred in less than 96 hours in order for that hospital to be reimbursed for services. now, critical access hospitals are treatment centers in rural areas that have no more than 25

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